By U.S. ArmyDecember 19, 2018
WHEELER ARMY AIRFIELD, Hawaii -- The 599th Transportation Brigade went through many changes in 2018. The unit sprinted into January as they continued staging and began the actual upload of cargo and equipment onto the USNS Mendonca for 3nd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division at Pearl Harbor.
Although the actual upload only lasted three days, preparation had begun before the end of November and ran through December until a pause for the holidays shut down operations.
The 599th fulfilled a mentoring role for the move, while total force integration partners were able to validate their port operations' function during the mission.
"Our job at the 599th in support of the 1192nd Reserve Transportation Battalion from New Orleans, Louisiana, and the 502nd Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element from Mission Viejo, California, was to ensure that they are able to run terminal operations. Because they don't do this daily like we do, we are able to provide mentorship for them," said traffic management specialist Frank Viray.
Because of the size of the move, the 599th employed 24-hour-a-day operations for the upload.
"We implemented a tactical operations center (TOC) at the port to monitor upload operations, and everything fell into place," said 599th marine cargo specialist Davey Flores. "Plus there were no major safety issues, and we were able to finish the upload before our projected time."
Also in January, the 599th Transportation Brigade uploaded the Libra Leader at Pearl Harbor to carry 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division cargo and equipment throughout the Pacific for Pacific Pathways exercises.
Transporters appreciated the way the Libra Leader was set up for cargo.
"When we thought the original ship was coming in, we had planned for Jan. 13-15 for the upload because it is lift-on, lift-off. Then, when we heard we had a roll-on roll-off, we allowed 24 hours for the upload. But once we saw the configuration of this vessel, we called in the whole crew and worked it one shift," said 599th marine cargo specialist Davey Flores.
Col. Frazariel Castro took the reins at the 599th from Col. Lillard Evans on Feb. 26 when the unit held a change of command at brigade headquarters.
From April 3-5, the 599th Transportation Brigade again played a mentorship role as partners offloaded 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team cargo and equipment from the USNS Mendonca on its return from JRTC at Pearl Harbor. The newest member of the 599th's arsenal of total force integration partners was the 931st Expeditionary Terminal Operations Element, a reserve unit from Sherman Oaks, California.
Capt. Jessica Foote, acting 931st ETOE commander, said managing the offload was not easy.
"It is the first real mission that we have been able to work instead of a training mission." she said. "… We were lucky that the offload was delayed by the long Easter weekend. It gave us a chance to take classes and get hands-on training in everything from systems to unlashing cargo."
April 17-20, individual mobilization augmentees assigned to the unit were able to stop by brigade headquarters for the first time ever as a group for training and familiarization on their way to an exercise.
Traffic management specialist and certified first aid instructor, Jimmy Quilon, and safety officer, Randey Hayes, comprised a team that first presented first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and automated external defibrillator classes to brigade headquarters, then travelled throughout the Pacific from April 26-May 8 to train members of each of the unit's three battalions.
"The battalions were very receptive with good leadership support," said Hayes. "They had very enthusiastic personnel. Once they began the hands-on training, they were really into it."
The 599th tested its agility with back-to-back air- and seaport operations in June.
The first mission was at Kalaeloa Airport where Ukrainian Antonov AN-124s, the second largest airplane in the world, were contracted by U.S. Transportation Command to upload and transport CH-47s for the 25th Infantry Division's Combat Aviation Brigade from June 11-15.
"There was some language barrier initially, and we had to convert everything from kilograms to pounds," said Frank Viray, traffic management specialist, " But once I found out who was the loadmaster, I was able to communicate with him on the stow plan.
"The first day was slow with a lot of hiccups, but once we got into a rhythm, everything was pretty smooth," he added.
Once they finished up with Kalaeloa, 599th transporters didn't have long to wait until the M/V Ocean Jazz pulled into Pearl Harbor to offload cargo and equipment for 25th Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team from Operation Pacific Pathways, 18-1 on June 17.
In addition to 599th and a terminal management team from the 836th Transportation Battalion out of Yokohama, Japan, transporters from Hawaii-based 302nd Reserve Transportation Battalion also assisted with the Pearl Harbor move.
In July and August, the 599th executed another quick turnaround. This time at two seaports.
The first mission was executed at Pearl Harbor, where U.S. Marine Corps Osprey aircraft were offloaded from the M/V Green Lake on July 19.
The second move was at Barbers Point Harbor.
"The only thing is that Barbers Point doesn't normally work weekends, but the carrier coordinated with the state and port manager for an exception to do this operation," said Jimmy Quilon, 599th traffic management specialist.
Quilon said the 524th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion moved cargo to the pier July 19-20 for the upload on July 21.
In September, the 599th Transportation Brigade hosted its subordinate battalion command teams and total-force-integration partners during a commanders' forum at brigade headquarters here.
Throughout August and September, the 599th and its partners were preparing to upload 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division cargo bound for the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana The upload, onto the USNS Bob Hope at Pearl Harbor Sept. 18-22, was the culmination of a weeks-long process.
"Highlights of the mission are being able to see a multi-service team comprised of the 1192nd DDSB, 302nd Transportation Battalion, the Navy at Fleet Logistics Center, Military Sealift Command, the 599th, the 836th, the 25th ID, and the Navy Cargo Handling Battalion," said Lt. Col. Gary Whittacre, 836th Transportation Battalion commander.
"The fact that we had all of these units and services involved was transparent to those who showed up to observe the mission," he added. "They could only tell the difference by the different vests that people wore. We were one team out there. It looks like we've been working together for months or years."
In December, the brigade received and offloaded cargo returning from JRTC for the 2nd Bde., 25th I.D. The offload was made more complicated because some cargo was designated for quick turnaround, and had to be separated from that which would return to Schofield Barracks.
In addition to usual port operations partners, Military Sealift Command and Fleet Logistics Center-Pearl Harbor, members of the 931st ETOE returned to Hawaii to help with the move, along with the 836th Transportation Battalion, and Navy Cargo Handling Battalion 1 from Virginia.
"My experience with the 931st ETOE is that they are professional, well-trained, and able to execute operations," said Whittacre.
Although the year is coming to an end, with new moves right around the corner, the 599th continues to provide transportation support in the Indo-Pacific Command and worldwide as required.